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Tragic future for space colonists – cancers, blindness and brain damage from radiation

Two main types of radiation in space are extremely harmful to humans: protons spewed out by the sun and cosmic rays. These high-energy particles and the secondary radiation they create penetrate deep into cells, promoting chronic and sometimes deadly diseases such as cancer.

Cancer is a major risk of radiation exposure, but there are more immediate and surprising symptoms. Deep-space radiation might promote cataracts and impair eyesight

Animal-based experiments also suggest radiation could damage the nervous system, including the brain, which might impair astronauts’ focus and memory.

“You’re somehow losing cognitive ability,”

Mars colonists will get blasted with radiation levels 8 times higher than government limits — here’s what they’re up against https://www.businessinsider.com.au/mars-radiation-levels-spacex-nasa-exposure-2018-4?r=US&IR=T, DAVE MOSHER, SKYE GOULD, APR 20, 2017 

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April 20, 2018 Posted by | health, technology | Leave a comment

At tax-payers’ expense, NASA will produce nuclear KILL-o-Power in space

Nasa to make announcement about nuclear power in space https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/nasa-announcement-nuclear-power-space-kilopower-reactor-a8312491.html  The ‘Kilopower’ project could be used to generate clean [?]  energy on the moon, Mars and further into the universe  Andrew Griffin @_andrew_griffin 

Nasa is to make a major announcement about its project to put nuclear power in space.

The agency has been working on “Kilopower” – a project to use a nuclear reactor to generate clean energy on the Moon, Mars and beyond – for some time. And now it will hold a press conference to reveal the latest results from its plans to unveil a new space exploration power system, it has said.

The conference will see the agency discuss the results of its latest experiments, it said in a release. It has been conducted from November 2017 through until March 2018, at the Nevada National Security Site or NNSS.

That site, deep in the Nevada desert, has long served as a testing ground for nuclear experiments. In the 1950s, for instance, it was used to detonate nuclear bombs that could be felt across the state and into Las Vegas.

Nasa hopes that Kilopower can use some of that same nuclear technology to provide energy for space explorers as they make their way through the solar system.  They will need energy for a wide variety of tasks, from generating the light, water and oxygen they need to conducting experiments and sending information back to Earth.

“That’s why NASA is conducting experiments on Kilopower, a new power source that could provide safe, efficient and plentiful energy for future robotic and human space exploration missions,” Nasa wrote in a statement in January.

“This pioneering space fission power system could provide up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power — enough to run two average households — continuously for at least ten years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.”

Using nuclear fission will allow astronauts to be able to generate energy wherever they are. If people on Mars, for instance, the amount of energy coming from the sun varies wildly; on Moon, the night lasts for 14 days.

“We want a power source that can handle extreme environments,” says Lee Mason, NASA’s principal technologist for power and energy storage. “Kilopower opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside. On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters

April 20, 2018 Posted by | technology | Leave a comment

The end for Japan’s expensive Monju nuclear fast breeder dream

Japan prepares to shut troubled ‘dream’ nuclear reactor https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Japan-prepares-to-shut-troubled-dream-nuclear-reactor

Decades-old plant has cost almost $10bn and hardly ever operated    

TOKYO — Japan is set to start decommissioning its troubled Monju fast-breeder reactor after decades of accidents, cost overruns and scandals. It is the beginning of the end of a controversial project that exposed the shortcomings of the country’s nuclear policy and the government’s failure to fully explain the risks and the costs.

In July, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency will begin decommissioning what was hailed as a “dream” reactor that was expected to produce more nuclear fuel than it consumed. The government has so far spent more than 1 trillion yen ($9.44 billion) on the plant, which has barely ever operated.

The plan approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on March 28 to decommission the reactor, located in central Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, calls for the extraction of spent nuclear fuel to be completed by the end of the fiscal year through March 2023. Full decommissioning is expected to take about 30 years.

 Total costs to shut down the reactor are currently estimated at 375 billion yen, but that could climb, as the full technical requirements and the selection of the nuclear waste sites are not well understood.

Japan does not have the technological ability to manage the decommissioning process on its own, and must enlist the help of France, which has more experience with fast-breeder reactors. Among the technical challenges is handling the plant’s sodium coolant, which is highly reactive and explodes on contact with air.

Many of the problems with Japan’s nuclear policy were brought to light by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster caused by the tsunami and earthquake of March 2011. Such problems have included the high costs of plants, the selection of nuclear disposal sites, and the threat of shutdowns due to lawsuits. Japan’s nuclear policy has largely been gridlocked since the disaster.

But the Monju project had many problems before the Fukushima catastrophe.

Planning for the project began in the 1960s. Its fast-breeder technology was considered a dream technology for resource-poor Japan, which had been traumatized by the oil crisis of the 1970s. The reactor was supposed to generate more plutonium fuel than it consumed.

The reactor finally started operating in 1994, but was forced to shut down the following year due to a sodium leak. It has been inoperative for most of the time since. The decision to decommission it was made in December 2016 following a series of safety scandals, including the revelation that many safety checks had been omitted.

Recent experience suggests the government’s estimated cost of 375 billion yen to decommission Monju could be on the low side. In 2016, the estimate for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant ballooned to 8 trillion yen from an initial 2 trillion yen in 2013, largely due to inadequate understanding of the decommissioning process.

While “the JAEA will try to keep costs down,” said Hajime Ito, executive director with the agency, the process of extracting sodium, the biggest hurdle, has yet to be determined. Future technical requirements will also involve significant costs.

The Monju reactor is not the only example of failure in Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle policy — the cycle of how nuclear fuel is handled and processed, including disposing nuclear waste and reprocessing used fuel.

Central to this policy is a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the village of Rokkasho in northern Aomori Prefecture that was supposed to extract plutonium and uranium by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel to be reused at nuclear plants.

More than 2 trillion yen has been spent on the plant so far. Construction was begun in 1993, but completion has been repeatedly postponed due to safety concerns. On Wednesday, the NRA decided to resume safety checks on the plant, but if it chooses to decommission it, the cost would be an estimated 1.5 trillion yen.

Had Japan taken into consideration the costs of decommissioning plants and disposing of spent nuclear fuel, it probably would not have been able to push ahead with its nuclear policy in the first place, said a former senior official of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, who was involved in formulating the country’s basic energy plan.

April 6, 2018 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Has the world forgotten the catastrophic danger if a plutonium-powered space rocket crashed to Earth

Beyond Nuclear 31st March 2018, President Trump has announced that he wants the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to “lead an innovative space exploration program to send American astronauts back to the moon, and eventually
Mars.” But the risks such ventures would entail have scarcely been touched upon.

For those of us who watched Ron Howard’s nail-biter of a
motion picture, Apollo 13, and for others who remember the real-life drama
as it unfolded in April 1970, collective breaths were held that the
three-man crew would return safely to Earth. They did.

What hardly anyone remembers now — and certainly few knew at the time — was that the
greater catastrophe averted was not just the potential loss of three lives,
tragic though that would have been. There was a lethal cargo on board that,
if the craft had crashed or broken up, might have cost the lives of
thousands and affected generations to come. It is a piece of history so
rarely told that NASA has continued to take the same risk over and over
again, as well as before Apollo 13. And that risk is to send rockets into
space carrying the deadliest substance ever created by humans: plutonium.
https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2018/03/31/the-real-houston-problem/

April 2, 2018 Posted by | safety, technology | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – their connection to nuclear weapons development

Although unstated, by far the most likely source for such support is a continuing national civil nuclear programme. And this where the burgeoning hype around UK development of SMRs comes in. Leading designs for these reactors are derived directly from submarine propulsion. British nuclear submarine reactor manufacturer Rolls-Royce is their most enthusiastic champion. But, amid intense media choreography, links between SMRs and submarines remain (aside from reports of our own work) barely discussed in the UK press. 

This neglect is odd, because the issues are very clear. Regretting that military programmes are no longer underwritten by civil nuclear research, a heavily redacted 2014 MoD report expresses serious concerns over the continued viability of the UK nuclear submarine industry. And Rolls-Royce itself is clear that success in securing government investment for SMRs would “relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” for the UK’s military nuclear sector.

Why is the UK government so infatuated with nuclear power? https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2018/mar/29/why-is-uk-government-so-infatuated-nuclear-power

As the nuclear option looks less and less sensible, it becomes harder to explain Whitehall’s enthusiasm. Might it be to do with the military? Guardian,  Andy Stirling and  Phil Johnstone, 29 Mar 18, 

Against a worldwide background of declining fortunes for nuclear power, UK policy enthusiasm continues to intensify. Already pursuing one of the most ambitious nuclear new-build agendas in the world, Britain is seeking to buck 50 years of experience to develop an entirely new and untested design of small modular reactors (SMRs). In 2016, then energy and climate secretary, Amber Rudd, summed up the government’s position: “Investing in nuclear is what this government is all about for the next 20 years.”

Despite unique levels of long-term policy support, this nuclear new-build programme is severely delayed, with no chance of operations beginning as intended “significantly before 2025”, Costs have mushroomed, with even government figures showing renewables like offshore wind to already be far more affordable. With renewable costs still plummeting, global investments in these alternatives are now already greater than for all conventional generating technologies put together. With worldwide momentum so clear, the scale of UK nuclear ambitions are an international anomaly.

Unswerving British nuclear support contrasts sharply with obstructive national policy on other technologies. In 2015 various strategies supporting renewables and energy efficiency were abandoned, with the cheapest UK low-carbon power(onshore wind), effectively halted. The consequences of these cuts are now clear. The output of community energy projects has fallen by 99.4%. National investment in renewables has halved. Meanwhile, UK industrial strategy continues to prioritise nuclearNuclear R&D gets 12 times as much funding as renewables in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s “Energy Innovation Programme”. Instead of considering alternatives to spiralling nuclear costs, the UK government is looking to accommodate them with entirely new models of public financing. It seems clear that – for some undeclared reason and regardless of comparative costs or global trends – Britain simply must have new nuclear power.

The depth of this Whitehall bias creates a challenging environment for reasoned debate over British energy policy. To many, it seems scarcely believable that UK plans are so massively out of sync with current trends. The sheer weight of UK nuclear incumbency has successfully marginalised the entirely reasonable understanding that – like many technologies before it – nuclear power is simply going obsolete.

With direct reasons for the UK’s eccentric national position still unstated, we should pay attention to body language. Here, clues may be found in the work of the National Audit Office (NAO)Its 2017 report of 2017 points out serious flaws in the economic case for new nuclear – highlighting “unquantified”, “strategic” reasons why the UK still prioritises new nuclear despite the setbacks and increasingly attractive alternatives. Yet the NAO remains uncharacteristically unclear as to what these reasons might be.

An earlier NAO report may shed more light. Their 2008 costing of military nuclear activities states: “One assumption of the future deterrent programme is that the United Kingdom submarine industry will be sustainable and that the costs of supporting it will not fall directly on the future deterrent programme.” If the costs of keeping the national nuclear submarine industry in business must fall elsewhere, what could that other budget be?

Although unstated, by far the most likely source for such support is a continuing national civil nuclear programme. And this where the burgeoning hype around UK development of SMRs comes in. Leading designs for these reactors are derived directly from submarine propulsion. British nuclear submarine reactor manufacturer Rolls-Royce is their most enthusiastic champion. But, amid intense media choreography, links between SMRs and submarines remain (aside from reports of our own work) barely discussed in the UK press.

This neglect is odd, because the issues are very clear. Regretting that military programmes are no longer underwritten by civil nuclear research, a heavily redacted 2014 MoD report expresses serious concerns over the continued viability of the UK nuclear submarine industry. And Rolls-Royce itself is clear that success in securing government investment for SMRs would “relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” for the UK’s military nuclear sector. Other defence sources are also unambiguous that survival of the British nuclear submarine industry depends on continuation of UK civil nuclear power. Many new government initiatives focus intently on realising the military and civil synergies.

Some nuclear enthusiasts have called this analysis a conspiracy theory, but these links are now becoming visible. In response to our own recent evidence to the UK Public Accounts Committee, a senior civil servant briefly acknowledged the connections. And with US civil nuclear programmes collapsing, the submarine links are also strongly emphasised by a former US energy secretary. Nuclear submarines are evidently crucial to Britain’s cherished identity as a “global power”. It seems that Whitehall’s infatuation with civil nuclear energy is in fact a military romance.

So why does the UK debate on these issues remain so muted? It is now beyond serious dispute that nuclear power has been overtaken by the extraordinary pace of progress in renewables. But – for those so minded – the military case for nuclear power remains. In a democracy, it might be expected that these arguments at least be tested in public. So, the real irrationality is that an entire policy arena should so comprehensively fail to debate such crucial issues. In the end, all technologies become obsolete. If we are not honest about UK civil nuclear policy, the danger is that British democracy may go the same way.

March 29, 2018 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Space radiation is increasing. That might put a stop to human visitors to Mars

Mars mission: how increasing levels of space radiation may halt human visitors, The Conversation, Gareth Dorrian, Post Doctoral Research Associate in Space Science, Nottingham Trent University, Ian Whittaker, Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University, 

From surviving take off to having to rely on oxygen tanks to breathe in orbit, space travel is incredibly risky. But a huge hazard that we sometimes overlook is high energy radiation from sources both inside and outside the solar system.

A new study, published in the journal Space Weather, has shown that radiation received from outside our solar system has been increasing steadily for the last few years, returning to levels not seen since the first half of the 20th century – making space travel more dangerous today than it was during the Apollo era.

This type of radiation, known as “galactic cosmic rays”, consists of the nucleus of an atom travelling very close to the speed of light. These rays, many of which come from our own Milky Way galaxy, are some of the most energetic particles in the known universe and are found throughout the solar system.

Humans have a limited tolerance to radiation of all kinds. Particle radiation can damage DNA in human cells, cause mutations and stimulate cancer. In extreme circumstances, an acute dose of radiation can cause sickness, burns and organ failure. Anyone who works near sources of radiation has a maximum annual limit on the dose they can safely receive.

Solar cycle

In space, astronauts are partially shielded from galactic cosmic rays by the magnetic field of the sun, which deflects some of these incoming charged particles. However, the sun’s magnetic field varies in strength over time, with the 11-year solar activity cycle. At solar minimum (when the sun is least active), the solar magnetic field is weaker, allowing more galactic cosmic rays into the solar system – posing a greater radiation hazard to astronauts.  At solar maximum, the opposite is true………..

New data

Since the last solar minimum in 2009, however, the sun appears to have returned to a quieter state once again. In fact, it has not been this quiet since the end of the 19th century. This change appears to be having a strong influence on the level of incoming galactic cosmic rays once again. Since the most recent solar minimum, the new study shows this specific radiation level is on the rise once more – it is currently some 30% higher than it was on average during the latter, quieter, part of the 20th century.

Scientists are currently debating whether these radiation levels will continue to rise. Our lack of knowledge about the underlying science of long-term variation in solar cycles is making it difficult to know for sure. Several studies predict that we are entering a new period of extended solar minimum conditions. But others suggest that current conditions are just part of the normal, long-term variation in solar cycles, and nothing out of the ordinary.

Either way, this evidently has major implications for future manned space missions. Although it is not the only factor to take into account. As well as charged particle radiation from the galaxy, the sun also produces this type of radiation in the form of solar energetic particles, which are produced more often, though not exclusively, at solar maximum………. https://theconversation.com/mars-mission-how-increasing-levels-of-space-radiation-may-halt-human-visitors-94052

 

March 28, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology | Leave a comment

NASA will allow plutonium powered spacecraft – reversing previous policy prohibiting this dangerous system

NASA to allow nuclear power systems for next Discovery mission, Space News by Jeff Foust — WASHINGTON — Citing progress in producing plutonium-238, NASA will allow scientists proposing missions for an upcoming planetary science competition to use nuclear power sources.

In a statement issued March 17, Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division, said the agency was reversing an earlier decision prohibiting the use of radioisotope power systems for spacecraft proposed for the next mission in the agency’s Discovery program.

A “long-range planning information” announcement about plans for the competition, issued Dec. 12, said that the use of such power systems would not be allowed, although missions could use radioisotope heater units, which use a very small amount of plutonium to keep spacecraft elements warm.

NASA made that decision based on projected use of existing stocks of plutonium-238 for upcoming missions, such as the Mars 2020 rover. Dragonfly, one of the two finalists for the next New Frontiers medium-class planetary science mission, also plans to use a radioisotope power system, as well as potential future missions the moon that require nuclear power to operate through the two-week lunar night.

“We have some liens against the radioisotope power,” Green said at a Feb. 21 meeting of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Group, citing those upcoming missions. The agency, he said, needed to balance mission demands against existing stocks of plutonium and efforts currently ramping up to produce new supplies of the isotope, which should reach a goal of 1.5 kilograms a year by around 2022. “The last thing we want to do is to select a mission and then not be ready to fly it.”

At the time of the meeting last month, though, Green said the agency was reviewing the prohibition against using nuclear power for the Discovery competition at the request of the scientific community, but didn’t offer a schedule for completing that review……. http://spacenews.com/nasa-to-allow-nuclear-power-systems-for-next-discovery-mission/

 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

More bad news on the danger to astronauts of space radiation

There’s more harmful radiation in space than previously thought, UNH study says https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/science/2018/03/15/radiation-could-cause-serious-long-term-health-effects-for-astronauts-study-says/XW1W77m   

Space travel just got even more complicated.

University of New Hampshire researchers recently concluded there’s at least 30 percent more dangerous radiation in our solar system than previously thought, which could pose a significant risk to both humans and satellites who venture there.

In their study, published Feb. 22 in the journal Space Weather, the researchers found that astronauts could experience radiation sickness or possibly more serious long-term health effects, including cancer and damage to the heart, brain, and central nervous system, said Nathan Schwadron, a space plasma physics professor at UNH and lead author of the study.

“Both concerns are very serious, but what we’re seeing in deep space is that over time, radiation seems to be getting worse,” Schwadron said.

Why is it getting worse? The sun’s activity has been low, the lowest it’s ever been during the Space Age, which began in 1957 with the launching of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite.

That’s bad because an active sun intensifies the sun’s magnetic field, which shields our solar system from cosmic rays, the university said in a statement.

“When we started sending human beings to the moon in the late 50s, the solar activity cycles were fairly strong, so the number of cosmic rays were lower,” Schwadron said. “But now the cosmic rays number is going up.”

Scientists expect the solar activity levels to vary, but they don’t know why the current activity is so weak, he said.

March 17, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, radiation, technology | Leave a comment

Much hype about Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – but are they viable?

Interest in Small Modular Nuclear Reactors Is Growing. So Are Fears They Aren’t Viable
SMRs are the future of nuclear. Will they always be the future?
Greentech Media 

March 17, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion: If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is

The Guardian view on nuclear fusion: a moment of truth   Until recently the attractions and drawbacks of nuclear fusion reactors were largely theoretical. Within a decade this will not be the case https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/12/the-guardian-view-on-nuclear-fusion-a-moment-of-truth 13 Mar 18

One of the cliches of nuclear power research is that a commercial fusion reactor is only ever a few decades away – and always will be. So claims that the technology is on the “brink of being realised” by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a private company should be viewed sceptically.

The MIT-led team say they have the “science, speed and scale” for a viable fusion reactor and believe it could be up and running within 15 years, just in time to combat climate change. [?] The MIT scientists are all serious people and perhaps they are within spitting distance of one of science’s holy grails. But no one should hold their breath.

Fusion technology promises an inexhaustible supply of clean, safe power. If it all sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. For decades scientists struggled to recreate a working sun in their laboratories – little surprise perhaps as they were attempting to fuse atomic nuclei in a superheated soup. Commercial fusion remains a dream. Yet in recent years the impossible became merely improbable and then, it felt almost overnight, technically feasible. For the last decade there has been a flurry of interest –and not a little incredulity –about claims, often made by companies backed by billionaires and run by bold physicists, that market-ready fusion reactors were just around the corner.

There are reasons to want to believe that fusion will one day be powering our lives. The main fuel is a heavy isotope of hydrogen called deuterium which can be extracted from water and therefore is in limitless supply – unlike the uraniumused in nuclear fission reactors. But fusion’s science is tricky and the breakthroughs rare. So far there has been no nuclear fusion reaction that has been triggered, continued and self-sustained. Neither has the plasma soup that exists at temperatures found in the stars been magnetically contained. Nor has any research group sparked a fusion reaction that has released more energy than it consumed, one of the main attractions of the technology. Perhaps the most successful fusion reactor has been the JET experiment, so far Europe’s largest fusion device, which ended up in the UK after the SAS stormed a hijacked German airliner in 1977 and Bonn backed the then prime minister Jim Callaghan’s request to host it. JET hasn’t even managed to break even, energy-wise. Its best ever result, in 1997, remains the gold standard for fusion power – but it achieved just 16 MW of output for 25 MW of input.

Hopes for fusion now rest with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter), a multi-national $20bn effort in France to show that the science can be made to work. Within a decade Iter aims to control a hydrogen bomb-sized atomic reaction for a few minutes. It is a vast undertaking. At its heart is a doughnut-shaped device known as a tokamak that weighs as much as three Eiffel towers. Iter’s size raises a question of how large a “carbon footprint” the site will leave. Like JET, Iter uses a fusion fuel which is a 50-50 mixture of deuterium and a rare hydrogen isotope known as tritium. To make Iter self-sustaining it will have to prove that tritium can be “bred”, a not inconsiderable feat. Iter will also test how “clean” a technology fusion really is. About 80% of a fusion reaction’s energy is released as subatomic particles known as neutrons, which will smash into the exposed reactor components and leave tonnes of radioactive waste. Just how much will be crucial in assessing whether fusion is a dirty process or not.

Iter’s worth is that it is a facility in the real world, where fusion’s promise can be tested. If it turns out to be better than expected then private investment is going to be needed to commercialise a fusion reactor. If it falls short then there must be a realistic rethink of fusion’s potential. After all, the money that has been poured into it could have been spent on cheap solar technology which would allow humanity to be powered by a fusion reactor that’s 150m kilometres away, called the sun.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | EUROPE, technology | Leave a comment

MIT’s $millions plan for small nuclear fusion station

MIT Receives Millions to Build Fusion Power Plant Within 15 Years https://gizmodo.com/mit-receives-millions-to-build-fusion-power-plant-withi-1823644634?IR=T   Ryan F. Mandelbaum 10 Mar 18 Nuclear fusion is like a way-more-efficient version of solar power—except instead of harnessing energy from the rays of a distant sun, scientists create miniature suns in power plants here on Earth. It would be vastly more efficient, and more importantly, much cleaner, than current methods of energy production. The main issue is that actually realizing fusion power has been really difficult.

Some, like the folks at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, still worry that the excess neutrons produced in fusion could lead to radioactive waste or contaminants, as well as high costs.

Nature points out that there are plenty others are in the fusion-with-high-temperature-superconductors game, too. Princeton has its own tokamak, and there’s a British company called Tokamak Energy using a similar device to produce fusion energy. But all of the cash towards the MIT effort is significant.

“If MIT can do what they are saying—and I have no reason to think that they can’t — this is a major step forward,” Stephen Dean, head of Fusion Power Associates, in Maryland, told Nature.  Perhaps all fusion power needed to become reality was, well, a lot of money. Mumgaard said that CFS’ collaboration with MIT will “provide the speed to take what’s happening in the lab and bring it to the market.”

March 10, 2018 Posted by | Reference, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Zombie nuclear corporation AREVA arises from dead – as “Orano” , “Framatome”

 

As Nuclear Giant AREVA Reforms, Framatome Is Resurrected http://www.powermag.com/as-nuclear-giant-areva-reforms-framatome-is-resurrected/03/01/2018 | Sonal Patel   a POWER associate editor.

Reforging its core business to return to competitiveness after record losses of €4.83 billion in 2014, French nuclear firm AREVA has split its five operational business units and rebranded them—again. All its assets related to the design and manufacture of nuclear reactors and equipment, fuel design and supply, and services to existing reactors now fall under Framatome, which until January 4 was known as New NP. Operations related to the nuclear fuel cycle will be undertaken by Orano, which until January 23 was known as NewCo.

Creation of the AREVA group itself was an overhaul effort. The company was formed in 2001 with the merger of Framatome, Cogema, a nuclear business of German giant Siemens, and French propulsion and research reactor arm Technicatome. Framatome—short for Franco-Américaine de Constructions Atomiques—was created in 1958 by Schneider, Merlin Gerin, and Westinghouse Electric to exploit the emerging pressurized water reactor (PWR) market.

. By 1975, the company had become the sole manufacturer of nuclear power plants in France, equipping French state-owned utility EDF with 58 PWRs, and gradually taking on more projects overseas, building reactors like South Africa’s Koeberg, South Korea’s Ulchin, and China’s Daya Bay and Ling-Ao. In 1989, Framatome and Siemens created a joint company called Nuclear Power International to develop the EPR, a third-generation reactor that complied with both French and German nuclear regulations. The companies eventually merged in 2001, retiring the Framatome name and giving birth to AREVA.

One of the company’s most prominent contract wins came in 2003 from Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO) for construction of the world’s first EPR, Olkiluoto 3, in southern Finland. In 2007, AREVA also signed a contract with EDF for an EPR in Flamanville, France, and separately with Taishan Nuclear Power Co., a joint venture 70% held by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Corp. and 30% by EDF. Two years later, Siemens withdrew its capital in Areva NP—AREVA’s specialized nuclear steam supply system arm—citing a “lack of exercising entrepreneurial influence within the joint venture” as the reason behind the move, and transferred its 34% stake to the AREVA group.

But plagued by delays and cost overruns at Olkiluoto 3 (Figure 3) and Flamanville 3, as well as at a research reactor construction project, and financially hemorrhaging from renewable energy contracts, AREVA’s finances began to fall into disarray, reaching record losses in 2014. In 2015, EDF moved to snap up between 51% and 75% of the troubled nuclear giant’s reactor business, encouraged by the French government’s attempts to address a rivalry between the two majority state-owned companies.

In November 2016, AREVA and EDF signed a contract conferring to EDF exclusive control of a new entity—New NP—that oversaw AREVA’s reactor design and equipment manufacturing, fuel design and assemblies manufacturing, and reactor services. Closure of the sale was completed in December 2017, and EDF became the majority owner (holding 75.5% of shares) of New NP, while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries took on 19.5%, and Paris-based international engineering firm Assystem held 5%.

Then in January 2018, the companies rebranded New NP, reviving the Framatome name in a move to harken to its celebrated legacy. Staffed by 14,000 employees worldwide, Framatome today has an “existing global fleet of some 440 reactors representing output of around 390 GWe in 31 countries, and with new nuclear capacity on its way, the nuclear market presents opportunities in the areas of components, fuel, retrofits and services,” the company noted in January.

The name’s luster has this year already been burnished by two significant developments for the company. On January 25, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire [ASN]) gave Framatome and EDF the green light to resume manufacture of forgings for the French nuclear fleet at its 2006-purchased Le Creusot site (Figure 4), which was taken offline following the French regulator’s 2015 discovery of an anomaly in the composition in certain zones of the Flamanville EPR pressure vessel head and bottom head. In 2016, a quality audit identified “irregularities” in paperwork on nearly 400 plant components produced at the forge since 1965. Preventative measures ordered by ASN stemming from that debacle in December 2016 shut down more than half of France’s reactor fleet, sending contract prices across Europe soaring.

Also, on January 25, Framatome finalized and launched Enfission, a 50-50 joint venture with Lightbridge Corp., to commercialize the U.S. fuel technology developer’s metallic fuel. Lightbridge says that the “seed-and-blanket” design can safely operate at increased power density compared to standard uranium oxide fuel. For Framatome, which provides next-generation fuel assembly designs to more than 100 of about 260 light water reactors around the world, the partnership will strengthen its position in the global fuel market.

As part of restructuring efforts in June 2016, meanwhile, AREVA also created a separate company focused on the nuclear cycle, which it called, simply, “New Company” (NewCo). On January 23, that company was renamed “Orano.” The name is derived from Ouranos, a Greek god who personifies the heavens and was father of the Titans, and who in Roman mythology became “Uranus.” In 1789, German chemist and mineralogist Martin Heinrich Klaproth named his newly discovered rare metallic element “uranium” for the planet Uranus, which had also been recently found.

For Orano, the name is important because it “symbolizes a new start,” said CEO Philippe Knoche in January. “We have big ambitions for Orano, namely for it to become the leader in the production and recycling of nuclear materials, waste management, and dismantling within the next ten years.” Knoche also said, however, that the company’s name is written in lower case because the prospect of rebuilding a profitable operation will be done “with humility.” For now, the company’s operations will bank on reprocessing and nuclear growth in Asia rather than investing in new mines, owing to low prices of uranium, which have slipped 80% over the last decade as the nuclear sector sees a general slowdown.

 

March 2, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, France, marketing of nuclear, politics, technology | Leave a comment

Nuclear fission – the name of the game for space colonising – says nuclear enthusiast

Kilowatt nuclear reactor could play role in powering manned missions on Mars, Las Vegas Now  Patrick Walker  Feb 26, 2018  “…….As humans prepare to venture out farther into the final frontier, the name of the game is nuclear fission.

February 27, 2018 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Los Alamos Board of Public Utilities – doubtful about viability of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

BPU has doubts about nuclear power project http://www.lamonitor.com/content/bpu-has-doubts-about-nuclear-power-project, By Tris DeRoma, February 26, 2018 

February 27, 2018 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Vain hopes for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) – expensive and there are no customers anyway

Small Modular Reactors for Nuclear Power: Hope or Mirage? https://www.theenergycollective.com/m-v-ramana/2426847/small-modular-reactors-nuclear-power-hope-mirage   by M.V. Ramana 

Supporters of nuclear power hope that small nuclear reactors, unlike large  plants, will be able to compete economically with other sources of electricity. But according to M.V. Ramana, a Professor at the University of British Columbia, this is likely to be a vain hope. In fact, according to Ramana, in the absence of a mass market, they may be even more expensive than large plants.

In October 2017, just after Puerto Rico was battered by Hurricane Maria, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry asked the audience at a conference on clean energy
in Washington, D.C.: “Wouldn’t it make abundant good sense if we had small modular reactors that literally you could put in the back of a C-17, transport to an area like Puerto Rico, push it out the back end, crank it up and plug it in? … It could serve hundreds of thousands”.

As exemplified by Secretary Perry’s remarks, small modular reactors (SMRs) have been suggested as a way to supply electricity for communities that inhabit islands or in other remote locations.

In the past decade, wind and solar energy have become significantly cheaper than nuclear power

More generally, many nuclear advocates have suggested that SMRs can deal with all the problems confronting nuclear power, including unfavorable economics, risk of severe accidents, disposing of radioactive waste and the linkage with weapons proliferation. Of these, the key problem responsible for the present status of nuclear energy has been its inability to compete economically with other sources of electricity. As a result, the share of global electricity generated by nuclear power has dropped from 17.5% in 1996 to 10.5% in 2016 and is expected to continue falling.

Still expensive

The inability of nuclear power to compete economically results from two related problems. The first problem is that building a nuclear reactor requires high levels of capital, well beyond the financial capacity of a typical electricity utility, or a small country. This is less difficult for state- owned entities in large countries like China and India, but it does limit how much nuclear power even they can install.

The second problem is that, largely because of high construction costs, nuclear energy is expensive. Electricity from fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas, has been cheaper historically ‒ especially when costs of natural gas have been low, and no price is imposed on carbon. But, in the past decade, wind and solar energy, which do not emit carbon dioxide either, have become significantly cheaper than nuclear power. As a result, installed renewables have grown tremendously, in drastic contrast to nuclear energy.

How are SMRs supposed to change this picture? As
the name suggests, SMRs produce smaller amounts of electricity compared to currently common nuclear power reactors. A smaller reactor is expected to cost less to
build. This allows, in principle, smaller private utilities and countries with smaller GDPs to invest in nuclear power. While this may help deal with the first problem, it actually worsens the second problem because small reactors lose out on economies of scale. Larger reactors are cheaper
on a per megawatt basis because their material and work requirements do not scale linearly with generation capacity.

“The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it’s not the deployment ‒ it’s that there’s no customers”

SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale by savings through mass manufacture in factories and resultant learning. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning. Rates of learning in nuclear power plant manufacturing have been extremely low; indeed, in both the United States and France, the two countries with the highest number of nuclear plants, costs rose with construction experience.

Ahead of the market

For high learning rates to be achieved, there must 
be a standardized reactor built in large quantities. Currently dozens of SMR designs are at various stages of development; it is very unlikely that one, or even a few designs, will be chosen by different countries and private entities, discarding the vast majority of designs that are currently being invested in. All of these unlikely occurrences must materialize if small reactors are to become competitive with large nuclear power plants, which are themselves not competitive.

There is a further hurdle to be overcome before these large numbers of SMRs can be built. For a company to invest
in a factory to manufacture reactors, it would have to be confident that there is a market for them. This has not been the case and hence no company has invested large sums of its own money to commercialize SMRs.

An example is the Westinghouse Electric Company, which worked on two SMR designs, and tried to get funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE). When it failed in that effort, Westinghouse stopped working on SMRs and decided to focus its efforts on marketing the AP1000 reactor and the decommissioning business. Explaining this decision, Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, announced: “The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it’s not the deployment ‒ it’s that there’s no customers. … The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market”.

Delayed commercialization

Given this state of affairs, it should not be surprising that
 no SMR has been commercialized. Timelines have been routinely set back. In 2001, for example, a DOE report on prevalent SMR designs concluded that “the most technically mature small modular reactor (SMR) designs and concepts have the potential to be economical and could be made available for deployment before the end of the decade provided that certain technical and licensing issues are addressed”. Nothing of that sort happened; there is no SMR design available for deployment in the United States so far.

There are simply not enough remote communities, with adequate purchasing capacity, to be able to make it financially viable to manufacture SMRs by the thousands

Similar delays have been experienced in other countries too. In Russia, the first SMR that is expected to be deployed is the KLT-40S, which is based on the design of reactors used in the small fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers that Russia has operated for decades. This programme, too, has been delayed by more than a decade and the estimated costs have ballooned.

South Korea even licensed an SMR for construction in
2012 but no utility has been interested in constructing one, most likely because of the realization that the reactor is too expensive on a per-unit generating-capacity basis. Even the World Nuclear Association stated: “KAERI planned to build a 90 MWe demonstration plant to operate from 2017, but this is not practical or economic in South Korea” (my emphasis).

Likewise, China is building one twin-reactor high- temperature demonstration SMR and some SMR feasibility studies are underway, but plans for 18 additional SMRs have been “dropped” according to the World Nuclear Association, in part because the estimated cost of generating electricity is significantly higher than the generation cost at standard-sized light-water reactors.

No real market demand

On the demand side, many developing countries claim to be interested in SMRs but few seem to be willing to invest in the construction of one. Although many agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed, there are still no plans for actual construction. Good examples are the cases of Jordan, Ghana and Indonesia, all of which have been touted as promising markets for SMRs, but none of which are buying one.

Neither nuclear reactor companies, 
nor any governments that back nuclear power, are willing to spend the hundreds of millions, if not a few billions, of dollars to set up SMRs just so that these small and remote communities will have nuclear electricity

Another potential market that is often proffered as a reason for developing SMRs is small and remote communities. There again, the problem is one of numbers. There are simply not enough remote communities, with adequate purchasing capacity, to be able to make it financially viable to manufacture SMRs by the thousands so as to make them competitive with large reactors, let alone other sources of power. Neither nuclear reactor companies, 
nor any governments that back nuclear power, are willing to spend the hundreds of millions, if not a few billions, of dollars to set up SMRs just so that these small and remote communities will have nuclear electricity.

Meanwhile, other sources of electricity supply, in particular combinations of renewables and storage technologies such as batteries, are fast becoming cheaper. It is likely that they will become cheap enough to produce reliable and affordable electricity, even for these remote and small communities ‒ never mind larger, grid- connected areas ‒ well before SMRs are deployable, let alone economically competitive.

Editor’s note:

Prof. M. V. Ramana is Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, as part of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.  This article was first published in National University of Singapore Energy Studies Institute Bulletin, Vol.10, Issue 6, Dec. 2017, and is republished here with permission.

February 22, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs, Reference, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment